When Americans put their minds, hearts, and souls into a mission – we get it done. In that simple notion, not without backsteps but with resilience and determination, lies great hope. Historians know this – from Yorktown to Normandy, Anzio to Apollo – we do not give up. We saw that again today.
A full 55 years after America first put two men in space on one rocket, Gus Grissom and John Young on Gemini 3, America has done it again – this time on a SpaceX rocket, and astronauts Doug Hurley (USMC, two time Shuttle pilot) and Bob Behnken (USAF Col, two time Shuttle crew). Congratulations, power to America’s manned future in space, and onward!
Details matter, and this launch has at least five details worth contemplating.
First, America has not launched American astronauts from American soil on an American-made rocket since the last Shuttle mission, number 135 on orbiter Atlantis – in 2011. Fittingly, the mission’s pilot was Doug Hurley, former F/A 18 Super Hornet pilot – who now commands SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.
President Trump recognized the two-man crew as pioneers in a new age of American human space flight, honoring them as heroes. From the Cape, he set the record straight – celebrating the moment, restoration of America’s capacity to launch men and women into space. We should never have lost it – and have now regained it.
In Trump’s 2019 State of the Union, he promised “Americans will go back to space on American rockets.” Media guffawed. After May 30’s SpaceX launch, the President noted: “A new age of American ambition has now begun,” and “those of us who saw the spectacular and unforgettable lift off this afternoon watched more than an act of history …We watched an act of heroism.”
To this he added: “The United States has regained our place of prestige as a world leader, as has often been stated, you can’t be number one on Earth if you are number two in space … and we are not going to be number two anywhere.”
That now settled, a second detail: Beyond establishing the “National Space Council” and starting the national “Space Force” to assure space-based security, Trump’s 2020 State of the Union offered a different promise.
The President pledged America to press deeper into space – exploring that final frontier. “In reaffirming our heritage as a free nation, we must remember that America has always been a frontier nation,” he said in January 2020.
Echoing President John Kennedy – 59 years ago – Trump pledged: “We must embrace the next frontier: America’s manifest destiny in the stars,” funding “the Artemis program to ensure that the next man and first woman on the moon will be American astronauts, using this as a launching pad to ensure that America is the first nation to plant its flag on Mars.” Now there is a goal –two goals – worth America’s focus.
Third fact: As the nation wrestles vexing, hard-to-fix challenges – a modern plague, international adversaries, economic woes, race relations – a moment of unity occurred today.
Not unlike the 1960s, when racial and cultural divisions wracked our nation, human space exploration again offers a chance for wide-eyed wonder, genuine curiosity, technological regeneration, common pause, and patriotism.
In a word, the launch today offered a moment of national unity, pride in shared heritage and common purpose. We are a nation of doers, as much as dreamers. We are a nation unbowed, undeterred, not to be driven off course, caused to forget who we are, or what we can do. We live for these challenges and we surmounted one together – today. America is back in space.
Fourth, the launch today offered a window into America’s future in another way. The launch demonstrated America’s capacity for technical can-do. We will not depend on foreign partners to launch our astronauts, nor the Russian RD-180 engines to support our rockets.
We will not place ourselves at the mercy of a foreign nation for space exploration, any more than we will – in the future – place our health and security, pharmaceutical industry, information technology, supply chains, or destiny in the hands of Communist China.
America is coming of age, for a second – or perhaps a 244th – time. From 1776 to now, we have been and will be composed of liberty-minded, self-reliant individuals. We would rather fight for truth and find a way to it on our own, than become beholden to an adversary. That goes for space – and for everything else.
Finally, today represents an inflection point in America’s understanding of ourselves. When Mercury astronauts launched on dicey rockets, Gemini astronauts on Titan II ICBMs, and Apollo astronauts atop “the candle” of Saturn 1B and 5 rockets, Americans were in awe of what America could do.
With each new iteration and brave step into space – we came to know ourselves again. We came to trust ourselves again. We are doing so now, again. As with Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo – not to mention Skylab, Shuttle, and Space Station – we are again in awe of who we are. The victory of American engineering – is a victory for all Americans.
So, in the middle of what seems an unending plague or nuisance – depending on where you live – and urban upheavals around race relations, remember that America at our best – is the best.
That is the truth, plain and simple. History proves it, daily we live it, and we should pause to take heart from it. When Americans put their minds, hearts, and souls into a mission – we get it done. In that simple fact, lies strength. We saw that strength come to life again – last weekend.